As someone who grew up Italian Catholic but was born in Russia, I have always been interested in the Eastern Rite Churches, especially the Russian Orthodox tradition. As a result, I have recently been attending Eastern Rite Catholic Churches to help me understand and get an idea of how my fellow Catholic brothers and sisters conserve their traditions here in the West.
Many of the parishes I have attended in my city use incense, Icons and standing traditions to pray. Visiting these communities has given me an appreciation for the practices of other regions of the world. Still, it has opened my eyes to show me this tradition is something I can see myself truly embracing as I endeavour into my more profound Catholic tradition. Lastly, in everyday life, I use icons and incense in my daily prayer life not just as a window into the divine but also to cherish and tie my Eastern European heritage with my Western Catholic upbringing.
I love incense and use it daily for prayer purposes. I would love to go to a church that incorporates it weekly. I think having the sensory to smell what faith is can really add to our beliefs. I feel as though since Catholic church is more structured people will seek more answers in what Christianity really means to them. I feel that it is important to always explore different ways of worship whether it be through music, prayer, or teachings.
I have been to a temple that practice Krishna Consciousness or Christ Consciousness. They are originated in India and they believe that their are certain logical ways to structure or beliefs and life. I can relate to some of the teachings because they make sense to me and bring explain why the belief in God is so important. I have no problem incorporating their idea of meditation and logic into my beliefs as a Christian. I find it interesting that they do not believe in eating meat especially cows and their reasoning behind it makes sense and resonates with me. I will continue to expand my knowledge on world religions and how I feel about my beliefs as A Christian. I think that I can definitely see why scripture and reading on different viewpoints matter to many religions especially those who center in Christianity. I think by expanding the teachings we follow we will renew or hope in the salvation of Christ.
I plan to, and to some extent do already, incorporate elements of Near Eastern Christianity in my faith. First of all, I have long believed in the catholicity (from a Greek word that means “whole/entire/universal”) and universality of the Church, even though I was raised Protestant. While I am not a member of the RC Church, I do consider myself a little-c catholic in the sense that I am a member of the global, universal church, and consider myself to be in communion with them (even if, ironically enough, I may not be admitted to some of their communions). I am a member of the church universal, and so all the saints of the church (East, West, Irish, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Levantine, etc) are part of my religious heritage. Second, I wouldn’t say that I pray or worship (yet, at least) in a specifically Eastern sense, but I do find myself drawn to Eastern liturgy. The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer shown to us by Professor Cochrane was a breath-taking and awe-inspiring sight to behold and to hear. Thanks to the Internet and music and video sharing, I am also able to listen to Bulgarian Chant, which is an entirely “other” and captivating experience to behold from a Western-reared perspective. I highly recommend looking up Bulgarian or even Arabic Orthodox chants on YouTube. Third, I value the broader biblical canons of the Eastern churches. While Protestants have 66 books, the Orthodox (and Catholic) have 70+. One specific Eastern group, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, has 81 books in their canon! This includes the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, and Josephus/Josippon, and many other books which Westerners have never even heard of. The Ethiopian Bible has never been translated into English, nor has it ever been published as a single collection in Ethiopian. It is wild to think about that there are books in their Bible that are not even in most editions of their Bible! (It would be like if our Bibles came in multiple volumes, but not everyone had to access to all the volumes!) There is a website dedicated to publishing the full Tewahedo bible in English, but they still don’t even have all the books and they don’t have many translators https://ethiopianorthodoxbible.wordpress.com/. Unfortunately, not many people read Amharic or Ge’ez. In light of that fact, I would hope to be able to read those languages some day in order to educate myself on this matter further. The Ethiopian Church also has a lot of other amazing facts, such as rock-hewn churches, the Ark of the Covenant, and claiming to have the Solomonic dynasty!
After learning about the many elements the Near Eastern Christians incorporate into their worship, I can honestly say I don’t think my church, or myself, use any of them. I grew up in a non-denominational church but switched to a baptist church a few years ago. Belonging to a baptist church now, we don’t have artwork, icons, or relics hanging in our sanctuary to aid in worship. We don’t use incense or any scents to aid in worship either. One thing my church does do differently is we spend the same amount of time in worship as we do for the sermon. I would be open to some sensory experiences and images/relics, as long as they weren’t pictures of God/Jesus. Through my own personal study, I have learned that symbolic artwork can have a purpose in worship but it needs to be applied correctly. The second commandment teaches us not to have anything as a representational image of God.
Thanks for sharing. I like the whole music aspect of Byzantine Rite Catholics. Personally, in my day-to-day life, I love to listen to Russian Orthodox chants. I believe this is one of the traditions I think the Catholic Chuch (my community) needs to bring back, chanting during services. It’s not just a great way to get into the spiritual mindset of prayer and reflection but also an excellent way to incorporate God and faith into our everyday busy lives.
It is interesting what religion does to draw us in and how it reveals so much to us. I have never heard on this particular sect of Greek Christianity but I would love to explore their liturgy and see how it can change the way I think about my walk even though I am nondenominational. I can relate to seeing how others practice their faith and being fascinated by it. I encourage you to continue to explore just for learning different points of view and expanding your knowledge on Christianity.
I appreciate your story! I too have interest in a mix of various music, and I have stuff from modern hard-rock to classical and sacred music on my iPod. I have some Orthodox chants, and Hebrew prayers on my iPod, so it would be funny if I was playing something modern and then it switched to that with someone in the car. That hasn’t happened yet, but maybe my goal should be to either confuse or surprise people with eastern music they haven’t heard before!
I really enjoy seeing the stained glass windows in many of the older churches too. I appreciate buildings of worship that were made with worship in mind, meaning that even the building has both meaning and beauty that points your gaze to Christ, nothing haughty or overly done, but a simple yet beautiful building. I belong to a baptist church and we don’t have hardly any similarities to the elements used by Near Eastern Christianity, but I really appreciate how we both can truly worship God in our different respectives. I have wanted to try incense on my own though. Thank you for sharing!
I belong to a baptist church as well and have noticed the same thing. I think to some extent the incorporation of Near Eastern elements would be helpful but not all of them. I really enjoy seeing stained glass windows and how beautiful many cathedrals are and wish that would be more present in Christian churches today. It seems like newer church buildings are built like movie theaters/stadiums, rather than a place to worship God. I do think it is important to have a space that honors God and reflects the one we are worshipping. Thank you for sharing!
I loved your response about the elements of Near Eastern Christianity that are presented in your own faith life. I was fascinated by the observation of how they utilize their senses to be able to connect to the Word of God. I find this particularly useful because yes people are able to hear the message of the Word of God, but to be able to incorporate other senses from the human body such as hearing, smell, touch, taste, and many others is fascinating.